Discourse 752 - Must Christians love their enemies? - Part 2: The Catholic view of the matter.




Prayers in the official churches. / Reply Dr. John Waterfield 00, 2006-01-28

Catholic church pays record damages to victims of sexual abuse/ "Die Presse" ["The Press"] 00, 02-02-2006

Must Christians love their enemies?         Part 1, Discourse 75



Dr. John Waterfield from Hereford, England, known to readers of this website as a result of his interesting contributions in Discourse 78 and by his own definition “a passionate Catholic”, has also taken issue with the statements made in Discourse 75. The discussion was carried on by e-mail, and since the comments were too extensive for publication in the original discourse, it has been found necessary to insert a second part of the document at this point.

(See also Discourse 78: “The doctrine of the Catholic church and the Bible - a debate.”)

(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Prayers in the official churches. / Reply JW00, 2006-01-28)

You write at the beginning of Discourse 75:

“Here I would like once again to say a few words about the contents of prayer. In the official churches you get a lot of prayers for the Third World’, ‘the poor’, ‘the victims of the flood disaster’ etc. In my understanding of the matter, this is overweening, and it betrays an absolutely inflated idea of ourselves to suppose that we might be able in any way to sort out entire countries, continents or even the whole human race as the result of a prayer.”

It is not us doing the sorting out, it is God. We only have to ask. So there is nothing overweening, or tending to our own importance, about it.

Dr John Waterfield jw.translations@virgin.net / http://www.jwtranslations.com



I know, this is the path followed by the official churches: you pray on the watering-can principle and let God do the “sorting”. This is rather similar to the way in which some parents give their children more pocket money, in order to avoid having to trouble themselves with them. This of course has the advantage, in both cases, that you do not have to make any effort or any kind of commitment yourself. And to prevent this from becoming altogether too apparent, one then diffidently states that it is not “up to us” to ponder on the needs of those people whom we hope to help with our prayers before presenting them to God, so that God can recognize that we are concerned for these people in a quite personal way and on that basis are asking for his help. One just makes an “all-inclusive” prayer without stirring a finger, and then lean back satisfied in ones pew.



John Waterfield: St John of the Cross said, ‘One sincerely felt prayer does more good in the world than any amount of charitable activity.’



This statement by your “saint” is again a remark that can mean everything and nothing. What does “sincerely felt” mean, in this context? In our previous discussion in Discourse 78 you asserted that other faiths as well - like Hinduism, Buddhism, shamanism and so on - are also capable of bringing people to salvation,

“... if pursued in a spirit of selflessness and sincerity”.

Much as one feels inclined to applaud the human virtues of selflessness and sincerity, from the point of view of a biblically believing Christian, only faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ - and his redeeming sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins - can lead us to everlasting life and save us from final damnation.

Then this saint speaks of “prayer”. Hindus, Moslems and devil-worshipers also pray to their gods, but from the Christian point of view their prayers are sent to the wrong address. Though I have my doubts whether you would agree with me on this, seeing that you wrote me in Discourse 78:

“... I know quite a few Buddhists - and I can see much of value in their spiritual practice. I am sure that in the hereafter Jesus will accept it as having been done in his name, even if they did not know that they were doing it in his name.”

And as a Christian, with the best will in the world I cannot agree with this view. These Far Eastern religions do not believe in the God of Christianity, they do not believe in the Son of this God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, or in his redeeming sacrifice for our sins. Nor, then, have they made any personal decision to accept the grace of God as it is offered here.

With particular reference to the Buddhists of your acquaintance whom you mention above, one is compelled to ask why it is, if they are really acting “unconsciously” in the name of Jesus, that they have not then consciously converted to the Son of the one and only God? As these are people with whom you are acquainted, and you describe yourself as a Christian, they cannot after all be strangers to Christianity. So why have they still not accepted Christ? Is it perhaps because you give them the impression that there is no need to be converted, and that they can go on believing “unconsciously” in Jesus Christ in this way, without having to confess him to the outside world?

Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father.

Mt 10,32 "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 10,33 "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Mt 10,32-33;



John Waterfield: I would also seriously disagree with your view that we should only pray for individuals with whom we are personally connected. If we see on our television screens victims of the tsunami or of flood disasters or whatever, how can we not be compassionate? How can this compassion not issue in a prayer to God our common Father?



To start by taking the last thing you say here: you are dangerously in error, if you think - as you plainly do - that God is the “common father” of all human beings. God is the creator of the world, but he is only a Father to those who confess themselves his children. And it is easy enough to see that all the unbelievers of this world - that is, all non-Christians - can not be included in this category. This type of argument in the first place encourages unbelievers to think it is all right for them to go on leading a godless life, while still having the Christian God as their father and being saved. With some brethren who are less well established in the faith, on the other hand, these suggestions could actually lead them astray, encouraging them to take an interest in mystic pursuits and Far Eastern religions and so causing them to apostasize from the true Christian faith.

In response to your remark about television and prayer - what do you actually want to pray for here? These reports are generally days old, if not weeks old - the people you see on the screen are dead already. This would be rather as if you were to watch on your television a feature film in which a murder takes place, and should run to the telephone to alert the homicide department.

The Indian Ocean tsunami caused the deaths of something like 230,000 people - the reports about it were extremely detailed.

In Darfur, in the Sudan, 3.5 million people have been murdered by their own government in recent decades. Mass executions, mass rapes and expulsions are the order of the day. Today 10,000 people are still being killed or are dying of hunger every month. But the television doesn’t bring us reports from this quarter, because it is not so attractive. So we don’t see anything about it, and we don’t pray either.

Think of the victims of terrorist attacks in Iraq and Israel. Think of the train accidents, plane accidents, pit disasters, avalanches, earthquakes, landslips, typhoon catastrophes, famines and so on and so forth. Do these not also have a claim on your compassion? But compassion on its own is hypocritical, as what it comes down to is an evasion of the need to exert oneself and give help. So we must help actively. Then do we just travel to the spot and set to work? Is this practical, is it possible - and then, all over the world? It just isn’t on - and so we give money instead. But even our financial help is not enough to cope with all these problems. And then you suddenly wonder why it is that the governments on the spot don’t actually do anything to help. But it turns out that either they need their money for satellites and atom bombs, like India and Pakistan, or else they are ruled by corrupt politicians who go on diverting our donations to their Swiss bank accounts the moment the funds come in. Those who are in need are unlikely to see a cent of it.

So what do you want to pray? You know about the situation only from television reports. You do not know the mentality of the people either. The fishermen of Phuket lost their little fishing boats in the tsunami, so they were sent a quantity of plastic boats from Europe that had seen the end of their service life. This was not such a good idea, because before the tsunami anyone who had a boat was the “boss” who did not work but had others - the people without boats - working for him. As they now all had boats, nobody wanted to work any longer, because they were all “bosses”.

What should we pray then? “Lord, help the victims of catastrophes”? That, I suppose, would be the Catholic version. But would that be just? Would it be appropriate? There are thousands of people suffering hunger and dying, and we sit at home in front of the television and feel “compassion”? That is just a bit simple, and it falls rather short. What is more, most of the victims are dead already and don’t need help any longer. Not the dead, but the living need our help. Financial help, but also and in particular, help of a spiritual nature, in that we have the Lord’s commission to preach the gospel to them and to pray for them. This may be through missionary work in the countries of the third world, in the evangelization of our cities, or it may equally well be through personal contact with people in our immediate environment.

Now you wrote me in Discourse 78:

“As I'm sure you are aware, the Catholic position is that the Church precedes the Bible and is the greater whole in which Scripture is contained. (...) All the same the Church existed before the books of the NT came to be written, and it was the Church that determined which books became part of the canon.”

So for the Catholic church - and for you as well, as you confirm here - the Bible is not the first definitive authority: authority is rather represented by the Catholic church itself with its “tradition”, that is to say with all that has been handed down by word of mouth and in writing. But I think that it can be determined even on the basis of these Catholic traditions - similarly to the New Testament - that in the earliest Christian congregations first of all the gospel was preached, and then prayer was offered up for these new brethren in the congregations. The early Christians prayed for those people they knew, not for the entire world. So do we feel less compassion today for all those unbelieving people in our immediate environment, although they are on the path to eternal perdition if the gospel is not preached to them and they do not accept the redeeming sacrifice of Our Lord?

If I remember correctly, you wrote me on one occasion that your wife and children are not Christians and that you regret this. Instead of praying for blasphemers, how would it be if you were to make it clear to your family that they will be lost for all eternity if they do not accept faith in Jesus Christ?



John Waterfield: You further write:

“It seems to me that a certain desire to optimize the situation is creeping in here - in that we want to have the biggest possible success resulting from a minimum investment. And of course it sounds so nice, doesn’t it, when we pray for ‘the whole world’. In doing so, we have no idea for how many blasphemers, deniers of God and idolaters we may be beseeching God’s blessing.”

Do blasphemers etc. have any LESS need of prayer than the devout? Of course the exact opposite is true, as Jesus himself made very clear. Or are you suggesting that such people do not deserve our prayers? I see it as being my daily task to pray for the unbelieving world. It seems that you see it as your daily task to condemn it.



What Our Lord himself made very clear is that we are not to pray for blasphemers and the unbelieving world, but - as he showed us - to call sinners to repentance!

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.

Lk 5,31 And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 5,32 "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." Lk 5,31-32;

For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Mt 9,12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 9,13 "But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mt 9,12-13;

I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Mk 2,17 And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mk 2,17;


But this means that we cannot here pass the buck to God, by “praying for the unbelieving world”, but must rather call sinners to repentance and conversion, as Our Lord did himself. And this call cannot be anything other than Our Lord’s command to preach the gospel in Mk 16,15 “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” So it is the Good News of the redeeming sacrifice of Our Lord for the sins of the whole world that we must preach to sinners and unbelievers. If they respond to this call, then they will be converted and saved and will become blessed. If they do not respond to the call, then, in the words of Our Lord, we should have nothing more to do with them and should even wipe off the dust of their streets as a sign of protest.

Whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out and wipe off the dust of their city against them.

Lk 10,8 "Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 10,9 and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10,10 "But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 10,11 ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 10,12 "I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city. Lk 10, 8-12;

The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.

Lk 10,16 "The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me." Lk 10,16;



It follows that while you may be able, with your prayers, to ask for God’s help for individuals, you cannot save either blasphemers or the sinners of the whole world from damnation, as the Catholic saint you cite later on, Therese of Lisieux, seems to suppose. This is because the unbelieving world has long since been saved and redeemed by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Through his redeeming sacrifice on the cross he created the necessary conditions for all humanity to be saved. But first of all people must have the Good News - the gospel of the love and grace of God in his Son - preached to them. And when they have heard this message, they must decide whether they want to accept or reject God’s offer. This is a personal decision that every individual must take for himself or herself, voluntarily and without any external pressure. So God doesn’t take any influence on the individual’s decision here either, and any prayer in this direction is just wasted effort. Only when the individual has decided to be converted from his unbelief or his idolatry, and to accept the offer of Our Lord for the forgiveness of his own sins as well, is he saved from eternal damnation. Then - and only then - you can pray for him, pray that he may abide steadfast in the true faith.

(See also Discourse 83: “Does Gods omniscience contradict human free will?“)


But we are concerned in this discussion on the one hand with prayer for the entire world - for people, that is, whom we have never seen and whom we therefore do not know either - and on the other hand with prayer for those people in our immediate environment whose material and spiritual needs are known to us, and who we can therefore have regard to when praying to God. But prayer is not our only way of helping these people: we can also support them in a material sense, we can motivate and advise them and point them the way. If we now omit to do this in favor of praying for “the world”, it looks suspiciously as if the real motivation here is not so much a special concern for blasphemers, but rather a neglect of these rather demanding social and pastoral activities which here are conveniently transposed into a prayer for the “unbelieving world”.



John Waterfield: In replying to Mr Gasser, you express yourself as follows:

“You write in one of your e-mails that you have spent 35 years seeking God. Seeing that you are so well acquainted with your national church, I presume you have also tried to find God there in the past. So how is it that you still haven’t found God there, after all these 35 years? Isn’t that a comment on this church? Your other remarks on what God does and what he does not do surprise me somewhat, when I reflect that you have yourself stated that you are just trying to get to know God - which means that you do not know God yet.”

Can anyone claim to know God? Can you blame someone for having the humility to confess that he does not? Would you be prepared to insist that your knowledge of God is superior?!



It is a statement made by my partner in this discussion that he would like to get to know God, and I do not find this so far off the mark as you do. Someone who prays to God in his secret chamber and in the Spirit every day, who talks to God and studies the Bible on a regular basis, will come in the course of time to have a certain knowledge about God and the dealings of God with humanity. On the basis of your surprised question, however, I must conclude that you - for whatever reason - have not yet had the benefit of such experience.

But here, after all, the issue we are concerned with is that Hanspeter Gasser has been looking for God for 35 years, and evidently has not found him. The important thing, then, is to find God. And God is only to be found in the Bible, not in the catechism or in any kind of tradition. If someone has been looking for God for 35 years and still has not found him, we can take it as certain that he has been looking in the wrong place. And seeing that you again address me personally at this point - yes, I am happy and thankful to testify that I found my God and Redeemer 30 years ago and more. So I no longer need to look for God, but am privileged to lead a blessed and prayer-filled life with God and Our Lord Jesus Christ.



John Waterfield: Your answer to Mr Gasser continues:

“And then we must also clear up what appears to be a misunderstanding in the views of Mr Gasser quoted above. When he writes, in his reply,

‘Plainly I am the victim of a completely incorrect understanding of our faith if I think that it is our job to pray that even blasphemers may be redeemed by Jesus Christ’

- we must acknowledge that he is quite right.”

Unless my reading is at fault, I think Mr Gasser is being ironic here. That is to say, I do not think he has any more objection to praying for blasphemers than I would.



In his irony he stated the truth. The real commission given to Christians is not to pray for blasphemers, but first of all to proclaim the gospel to them - as shown in my subsequently statement in Discourse 75. And if a person does not have the possibility or does not have the talent for proclaiming the gospel, then he can support evangelization and the preaching of the gospel in the missions with financial help or in other ways. Though the Catholic missions are in my view not to be recommended, as they generally leave out the topic of salvation through Jesus Christ. (Cf. Das Evangelium der Maria. Die weibliche Stimme des Urchristentums. Errettung durch Gott bringt uns das Evangelium der Maria - die wahrhaftig frohe Botschaft! [The gospel of Mary. The female voice of primitive Christianity. Salvation by God is brought to us by the gospel of Mary - the real Good News!] by Jean-Yves Leloup).




John Waterfield: Dann schreiben Sie:

“The real job of the Christian believer is not to pray for blasphemers - rather, it is described by the Lord specifically in the following passage (Mk 16,15-16):

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mk 16,15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16,16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Mk 16,15-16;


I am afraid I completely disagree with this. I would rather pray for sinners than be proved right by condemning them - or even (if it comes to that) by God’s condemning them. I do not think God wants to condemn a single soul. If souls are condemned, it can only be by their own choice. The task of the Christian believer, correspondingly, must surely be ‘not to desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live’.



In the life of faith it is not so much a matter of “wanting”, as of doing something. The commandment given by Our Lord Jesus Christ to all true Christians in the entire world is to preach the Good News of salvation by grace through his redeeming sacrifice. The whole of Christendom is unanimous on this point. If you now say “I completely disagree with this”, I can only put it down to your taking the position that for you the Bible is not definitive, and what is more that all other religions are equally capable of leading to salvation.

The reason you give - that you completely disagree with the Lord’s statement that “he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” on the grounds that God “does not want to condemn a single soul” - is a clear indication that you have missed out on the conditio sine qua non of this expression of the will of God, even though it is to be found in all 27 books of the New Testament. The indispensable condition, on the basis of which human beings are able to enter eternal life, is not that “desire of the heart for God” which you have fancifully attributed to all unbelievers generally on repeated occasions, but faith in Jesus Christ.

He who believes in Me will live even if he dies.

Jn 11,25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,11,26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" Jn 11,25-26;

Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

Jn 8,24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." Jn 8,24;


Now I do agree with you when you say that people will be condemned on the basis of their own choice. But have you thought at all about what these people should choose? It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, with which you were in “complete disagreement” a moment ago, that gives the only correct answer to this question. If people know nothing about the redeeming sacrifice of the Lord and salvation by grace, they cannot choose them either. So if you want sinners to be converted, to repent and be saved, then you must also make some contribution to this by telling them about this one and only path to salvation - on your website, for instance, where after all you can reach out to the whole world.

If you have proclaimed the gospel to an unbeliever, then you can pray for him, pray that he will actually respond to it and be saved. To pray for a person to be converted without first preaching the gospel to that person is like starting a car when the fuel tank is empty. You can go on trying to start it all you like, but the car isn’t going to move an inch. Likewise with people who have not already heard the gospel, you can pray all you want, but you won’t make anything happen - the reason being that they just do not have any idea what they should choose.



John Waterfield: And then you write in your explanation of the parable of the Good Samaritan:

“And this is just the point at which Our Lord engages with the issue, by making it plain through this parable that we do not have to spend a lot of time searching around and wondering who our neighbor is - the neighbor we are supposed to love as ourselves - because this neighbor gives us direct evidence of his identity through his compassion and willingness to help us. So the Lord did not answer this question just for the benefit of the lawyers of Israel of his own time - the answer is equally relevant to us today. If we want to recognize our neighbors, we must look among the people who have shown us love and compassion. These then we should love in return - and love them as we love ourselves. This is what the Lord says, and it is also the most obvious thing in the world and taken by all reasonable persons as such. How is it then that some people see this view as incorrect?”

May I quote here Matthew 5, 43-48:

You have heard that it was said, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I think that completely contradicts your interpretation of the Good Samaritan story. I have been told that Margaret Thatcher shared your opinion - but would you want to be in that kind of company?!


In your Bible quote above it says:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?


By implication, this statement of the Lord means:

o  Among the brothers in Christ, we must also love those who do not love us.

o  Among all people we must also greet those who are not our brothers in Christ.

But what the godless and the Catholic idol worshipers want to convince us that we should love all people, the Lord didn’t say anything here.

For the benefit of all those readers who have not yet read the first part of this Discourse, may I just at this point quote the parable of the Good Samaritan once more, so that they may be aware of the background to my arguments:

But the lawyer, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?

Lk 10,25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 10,26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" 10,27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 10,28 And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." 10,29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 10,30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 10,31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 10,32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 10,33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 10,34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 10,35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 10,36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 10,37 He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." Lk 10,25-37;


The one and only purpose of the whole parable, as the Lord uses it here, is to answer the question that has continued to be discussed right up to the present day by the Jewish lawyers and rabbis: “Who then is my ‘neighbor’, in the first commandment of the Almighty, who we are supposed to love as we love ourselves?” And in point of fact even today Jews believe that it is only possible to be a neighbor by birth - as a brother or sister, that is, or at all events on the basis of belonging to the same race, so that an Israelite is a neighbor to Israelites. At the very most a relationship based just on sympathy, as between friends, might fulfill this criterion. So it is only these people who we would be required to love.

But this parable of the Lord’s makes it plain to them that it is not our physical brothers and sisters or our friends who are automatically our neighbors, on the basis of their connection with us - it is rather those people who have stood by us when we were in need, who by helping us have become our neighbors. And so in accordance with this commandment we must love these people as we love ourselves in gratitude for their help, through which they have become our neighbors. This is the exact message of the parable. This is love of our neighbor as the Lord here defines it.

Love of one’s neighbor

One of the biggest swindles in this world is the complete reversal of the meaning of "love of one’s neighbor" in the Bible by churches, preachers and aid organizations, with a view to stimulating the compassion of credulous people and raking in money without too much trouble.

In accordance with the words of the Lord in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:36-37), love of one’s neighbor means loving those people who have helped you and showing them your love in the same way as they have showed their love to you in helping you. Love of one’s neighbor, then, is not a category of compassion but one of gratitude.

And with this biblically correct view of the second commandment about love of one’s neighbor (Mt 22:37-39), we can also understand the first commandment the Lord mentions in the same passage, that referring to the love of God. We are not expected to love God on the grounds that he is needy or because he requires our help in any way, but because he has given us our life and everything we need for it. He has created everything – the universe and our planet and everything that exists and lives on it. And he has given it to us.

And that is why we should love God with our whole heart, because he has cared for us in this way. And in the same way we should love our neighbors who have helped us in our lives and looked out for us.



The incorrect interpretation which has come into circulation as a result of incomprehension or superficial reading of this parable is the view that sees all the poor of this world as automatically being our ‘neighbors’, just on the grounds that they are poor. Certainly, support given to those in need of help is not played down in this parable. If someone wants to become the neighbor of another, he must help him. The Lord says as much, after all, at the end of the parable. But it is then, based on the commandment of God, the obligation of the person who has been helped to love the helper in recognition of the help he has provided. Love of our neighbor, such as the Lord calls for here, is therefore not a category of compassion, but rather one of gratitude.

So seeing that in this authentic love of our neighbor we have to do with a special and more comprehensive love, comparable with the love each individual has for himself, and not the normal love of human beings, your quoting the Sermon on the Mount in this connection is somewhat out of place. Apart from this, it suggests that you have not even read my interpretation of this passage in the first part of this Discourse. Otherwise you would be aware that in the first part I actually confirm these very statements from the Sermon on the Mount. But whereas your enemies are random people in the world out there, whom you have never seen and whom you generously want to forgive en masse by praying for them anonymously, to me they are our actual enemies with whom we are personally acquainted, with whom we have contact on a daily basis and who we know are hostile in their attitude to us.

The text of the last verse you quote (Mt 5,48) - “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” - should therefore not be interpreted in a superficial way either. The double use of the term ‘perfect’ is in no way to be taken as implying semantic identity. Human beings cannot possibly be perfect as God is. This would be humanly impossible, and the Lord would most certainly not expect what is humanly impossible from us. And besides, it would then actually mean that we should be just as perfect as the Father, with the consequence that we would ourselves be gods. This would be a blasphemous idea, so it cannot be what the Lord means.

So the significance of the term needs to be relativized. God, in his omnipotence, is perfect in heaven. And we, in our human way and with our limited capacity, should also be ‘perfect’. If the Father causes the sun to rise on his friends and enemies, then we should give the benefit of our love likewise to our friends and enemies.

But it is obvious, now, that this obligation to forgive and love our enemies excludes those people who place themselves in opposition to God. Otherwise, indeed, we would be overstepping our human limits and “playing” God ourselves. Only God can forgive his enemies - it is not for us to do it in his behalf. It follows from this that we should love our personal enemies, those with whom we are acquainted and of whom we know that they are hostile to us (not hostile to God!) in a wholly personal sense. But this on no account extends to any kind of fictional enemies out there in the world - and least of all the enemies of God. So I do not see any opposition, either, between my commentary and this passage from the Sermon on the Mount.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is concerned with love of our neighbor - that is to say, the person who has helped us - and with our obligation to love this person as ourselves. And as I just made clear in the previous point, this kind of love is not the love that is generally addressed to our brethren and enemies, but rather a quite special and more comprehensive love, that requires of us all that we are prepared to allow to ourselves. So it would be quite impossible to extend this kind of love to all our enemies - or for that matter even to all of our brethren.

My explanation of the parable of the Good Samaritan thus relates just to the one saying of Our Lord’s:

Lk 10,36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"

- and the answer of the lawyer:

The one who showed mercy on him.”


It follows that it is not the man who fell among robbers who was the ‘neighbor’ of the Samaritan, rather it was the Samaritan who was the neighbor of the victim, and who should therefore have been loved by this same victim - according to the commandment of God - in the same way as he loved himself.

My interpretation is therefore in no way at odds with this passage from Mt 5,43-48. And indeed I confirmed this very thing, by writing as follows:

“ The question voiced in the title of this Discourse - ‘Must Christians love their enemies?’ - can therefore be answered with an absolutely definite affirmative. At the same time, there must be a pronounced emphasis on the ‘their’, as a critical factor. We do not find anything in the Bible to tell us that we should love the enemies of others, let alone people the world over. And even with some of our actual enemies, Scripture tells us to keep our distance from them and to have nothing to do with their activities (1Cor 5,9-13; 6,9-10; 2Cor 6,14-15 etc.).”


Incidentally, in the first part of this Discourse I quoted the sayings of the Sermon on the Mount one by one and demonstrated that the Lord is here referring only to those people who are personally known to us, and ideally also close to us in a physical sense. And if you read the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety, you can recognize that the Lord is here speaking of our enemies on the material level. As for enemies on the spiritual level - that is to say, blasphemers and unbelievers, such as at the time of Our Lord the leaders of the Jews on the Sanhedrin were - the Lord did not have any mercy on them either, when he denounced them in the following terms:

Mt 3,7 You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Mt 12,24 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?

Mt 23,32 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

Jn 8,44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.

You make a proselyte and make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Mt 23,15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. Mt 23,15;


This necessary distinction between our enemies is also confirmed by another scriptural passage. In the first of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation, the letter to the congregation of Ephesus, amongst the other merits of this congregation their attitude to the Nicolaitans is singled out for praise:

Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate..

Rev 2,6 ‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Rev 2,6;


Just like the injunction in the Sermon on the Mount that you quoted earlier - “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, love your enemies” (Mt 5,43-44) - so this statement in Revelation comes directly from the mouth of the Lord (Rev 1,1). So we cannot suppose that in the one instance the Lord would tell us not to hate but to love our enemies, and then on another occasion praise the faithful of the congregation because they hate their enemies and their works. And when we look at the continuation of this statement - “which I also hate” - we can see that it is not just a matter of enemies of the congregation, they are also enemies of God and Our Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise he would hardly say that he hates their works.

If we now pursue the question who these Nicolaitans actually are, we find out more about them in the third of the letters to the churches, the one addressed to the congregation of Pergamum. Clearly there were such “Nicolaitans” in this congregation as well, but by contrast with Ephesus, in Pergamum they were tolerated in the congregation. And for precisely this reason the congregation is here subjected to Our Lord’s censure and condemnation.

So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

Rev 2,14 ‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. 2,15‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Rev 2,14-15;


In this passage we see first of all the reason why these people are hated by the Lord: they disseminate false doctrine. But if we look at it more closely, we can also learn something about the content of this false doctrine. It is stated here, in Rev 2,15, that these Nicolaitans hold to their false doctrine “in the same way”. Now this can only be a reference to what is said in the previous verse, Rev 2,14, about the false teachings of Balaam, which are likewise tolerated in Pergamum and which are designed “to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality”.

So both categories - Balaamites and Nicolaitans - are idolaters who put a stumbling block in the way of the people, present them with lies and so lead the people of God away from the right path and lure them into believing a false doctrine. We find the same implications even in the two names: the Old Testament name Balaam means “destroyer of the people”, while the corresponding Greek form “Nikólaos” comes from nikáo, to conquer, and laós, people, and so can be translated as “conqueror of the people”. The Nicolaitans, then, are false teachers who have insinuated themselves in the congregation and are working within the congregation to lead the faithful astray. What is more, they are idolaters and given to immorality.

The works of these people, which the Lord hates, and which we consequently should not love either, are presented by Scripture in the following way:


 - They have heard that only faith in Jesus Christ can save human beings from eternal damnation.

 - They deny this one and only possible path, and claim that there are other paths as well.

 - Instead of the Creator, they reverence the creation and sacrifice to idols: the sun, the moon, the stars, mountains, trees and animals. They make images of wood, stone and metal and pray to them. They conjure up spirits, dead people, angels and demons and supplicate “saviors”, “mediators” or “gods” that they have themselves invented.


If such people now attempt to pass on their false beliefs in the congregation or to individual believers, then they are no longer merely the enemies of man, they are also the enemies of God, as they are seducing his people into offering prayer to idols. They are just as much of their father the devil as are the Jewish lawyers who denied the divine Sonship of the Lord, and to whom he referred in such scathing terms in the passage quoted earlier (Jn 8,44). And if anyone has got the idea into his head that the Lord’s commandment in Mt 5,43 - “But I say to you, love your enemies” - puts us under an obligation to love these sons of the devil, he has failed to understand the biblical background and would therefore be well advised to examine the foundations on which his faith is based at the earliest opportunity.

As Charles H. Spurgeon says in his book “What the Holy Spirit does in a believer's life” (p 117) [“Mit Wind und mit Feuer”]:

“While it is true that we live in the world, we do not need to have any dealings with the devil and his children. Our Lord absolutely does not like to see his children making companions of the children of wrath. Such evil associations will cause you suffering sooner or later. You cannot expect that the Holy Spirit will stay with you when you are in league with those who are opposed to the Lord.”“


If you now go on to describe the godless and idolaters as “my unbelieving or non-Christian brothers and sisters”, you must expect to be faced with the question whether you cannot recognize, in the characterization above, a certain similarity with the society that you frequent, and therefore whether you may not be - from a Christian point of view - fraternizing with the wrong people?

When, on the other hand, we come to your question whether I would like to be found in the company of Margaret Thatcher - as you can easily imagine, this British politician of a past era is not personally known to me, and so I cannot pass any judgment either as to what social circles she moves in. But if you insist on knowing what kind of contacts I personally favor, I can tell you that wherever possible I try to avoid the society of those people who form their opinions on the basis of hearsay and without going into things thoroughly, either in religious or in worldly matters - and so are responsible for spreading rumors abroad, in the one case as in the other.



John Waterfield: Again you write:

“Finally, in connection with our theme of love of our neighbor, we might put the further question what it is supposed to mean ‘to love your neighbor as yourself.’ But it shouldn’t really be too difficult to answer this question. Anything that I allow myself - from the material things that I can afford, through to the faults which I tolerate - I must also allow to my neighbor, in material or ideal form. And this at the same time gives us an answer to the question of proportionality: If there is something I cannot afford or do not want to allow myself, then based on the same definition I do not have to accept it in my neighbor either.”

I find this last statement quite extraordinary. Does it mean that if I am a teetotaller, it gives me a right to condemn alcoholics? Do I make my own virtue the measure of other people’s vices? This is completely pharisaical and in contradiction of everything Our Lord taught us. In particular, the Pharisee and the publican in the temple come to mind.



Just like many other important scriptural passages, this commandment of God’s - “Love your neighbor as yourself” - is also often viewed superficially, without any analysis of the real meaning of what is being stated. The explanations of some interpreters give the impression that “Love your neighbor” is the sum total of what is written here. But this just is not the case. So why does the Lord say “as yourself”? Because, of course, it is not our normal love of human beings that is meant, but a quite special and more comprehensive love. If, based on the words of Our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, we are supposed to love our friends and enemies, we should love our neighbors as ourselves.

Now it is a fact that the self-love of a human being is greater, in the great majority of cases, than that love that he shows to his fellows. And it is just this self-love that we are enjoined by this commandment to show to our neighbor - the person who helps us - when he requires it of us. But just as the love of God is not blind, but is directed by his justice, so too this commandment has its limits. This love of our neighbor is self-regulating. It is based on the self-love of the individual. One who is dissipated and who allows himself every possible indulgence, must concede the same to his neighbor when it is asked of him. On the other hand, a person who tends to asceticism and has thrifty ways can equally make this a condition in relation to his neighbor. This is the meaning of love of our neighbor as it is defined by Scripture. But it appears that the deeper significance of this passage is something with which you are not familiar.

But then quite apart from love of our neighbor, if we have to do with an alcoholic the teaching of the Bible gives us not just the right - if he is a brother in Christ, that is - but even the obligation to warn him about it, as Paul too writes in the following passage:

Do you not know that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God?

1Cor 6,9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 6,10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 1Cor 6, 9-10;


So it is not a matter of self-righteously looking down on our brother - as in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector - but rather of reproving born-again brethren who as a result of temptation have fallen into evil ways. And if you criticize me here by saying that “This is completely pharisaical and in contradiction of everything Our Lord taught us”, I would like to point out to you what Our Lord actually said in this connection:

If your brother refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Mt 18,15 "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 18.16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 18,17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Mt 18,15-17;


But the apostles as well, in their letters to the brethren, laid down very concrete rules of procedure, through which they warned the whole congregation not to have dealings with brethren who have fallen into vices of this kind, and who cannot be persuaded to change by any amount of admonition or exhortation:

Do not associate with any brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard.

1Cor 5,9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 5,10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 5,11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even to eat with such a one. 1Cor 5, 9-11;

Certain persons, who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jud 1,3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 1,4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 1, 3- 4;

For the wages of (each) sin is death.

Rom 6,23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6,23;


Incidentally, at this point in your commentary you are rather mixing up the texts, because you have not read what forms the basis of these statements - the parable of the Good Samaritan - carefully enough. And this then results in many misunderstandings:

-  First of all, we are speaking here of the parable of the Good Samaritan, not about an alcoholic

-  Secondly, the matter that concerns us is the question of the lawyer as to who his neighbor is, whom he is expected to love as himself

-  Thirdly, it is a matter of the identity of this same neighbor in the parable

-  Fourthly, of Our Lord’s demonstration that the one who helps is the neighbor

-  And lastly, this ties up with the beginning, as showing that we should love our helpers as we love ourselves.


So if we are supposed to love our helpers as ourselves, we must concede to them everything that we likewise concede to ourselves. So if we were alcoholics ourselves, we would have to tolerate alcoholism in our neighbors as well. But if we are not alcoholics, then based on our responsibilities in the light of this scripturally based view of love of our neighbor we are not obliged to tolerate such a thing in our neighbor either. That is to say, we will help him to get free of this addiction. The message of the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” is purely and simply that we should allow all the good to come to this neighbor of ours - the one who has helped us - that we also grant ourselves, and conversely we cannot condemn him for activities that we ourselves indulge in.

Seeing that your memory at the end of the parable apparently did not reach back to the beginning, you have failed to realize the reference to the neighbor - the helper, that is. And when you say that “Condemning the vices of other people is totally pharisaical”, this then likewise confirms that you do not find alcohol abuse, drug abuse, child abuse and rape to be “worthy of condemnation”. Just in case you should again fail to see the connection here - in all four cases, we find the individual indulging his own desires. In alcoholism and drug abuse it is our own body that is abused, in child abuse and rape it is the body of another human being, but this does not alter the fact that the root cause is the same want of respect for the human body as God’s creation. So you really need to subject your moral and ethical first principles to a serious re-examination.


John Waterfield: In Ihrer weiteren Argumentation zur Feindesliebe schreiben Sie:

“If we now try to get a view of the correct background for this statement of the Lord’s, we hit upon further parallels to love of our neighbor. Just as the latter relates not to the poor of the entire world, but only to those people who have personally stood by us and helped us in our lives, so love of our enemies likewise relates not to the whole world’s criminals but only to those people in our immediate environment who are hostile to us. And just as with love of our neighbor, so with love of our enemies too it follows of necessity that we must have a personal connection with the people in question.”

I would like to mention here Therese of Lisieux’s love of a condemned murderer. She did not know him personally, and she can have had very little idea about his personal circumstances. She did love him and she did pray for him fervently and he was converted before he was executed (see Histoire d’une Ame for details).



(See also “Story of my soul” [L'histoire de mon âme] by Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin [Therese of Lisieux].)

Yes, this was an exceptional woman and worthy of admiration. It was she too who said, shortly before her death, “I am not dying, I am entering life”. There are very few who can say that. All those human beings who have not accepted faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ and his redeeming sacrifice can expect, following their first death and resurrection, to be immediately faced with the second death and eternal damnation.

(See also Excursus 08: “The first and the second death.”)


Without wanting to belittle the deserts of this Catholic saint with whom I am not further acquainted, there is nothing in these stories to suggest that this murderer accepted the vicarious sacrifice of Our Lord for his sins. Just before he was executed, he kissed the cross. But this by no means proves that he was saved. Moslems too kiss the Koran, and so think that they will enter paradise.

Love and prayer are important criteria for growth in the Christian life. The crucial matter, however, is whether a person believes in Jesus Christ, and has also personally accepted his sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Then he is certainly saved. Otherwise not.



John Waterfield: You further write

“The Jewish spiritual authorities at the time of Jesus were also denounced for their hypocrisy and deceit by the Lord, who described them as the offspring of the devil. And right now in America we have just seen the conclusion of two court cases. In one of these, in the Californian diocese of Santa Rosa, the Roman Catholic church was compelled to pay out 3.3 million dollars (2.05 million euros) in indemnification for a priest’s having sexually abused a 14-year-old girl. In the other, in the diocese of Covington in the American state of Kentucky, the court found for several hundred victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and slapped the Catholic church with the biggest ever indemnification sum to date, amounting to 120 million dollars or 82 million euros. When we consider that in the Northern Californian dioceses there are another 150 suits still pending, and that the Roman Catholic diocese of Boston last year had to pay out 85 million dollars (around 66 million euros) to victims of sexual abuse by priests, the applicability of these statements to the present day is inescapable.”

These accounts certainly make me very sad. I can only say that with all the Catholic priests whom I know personally, sexual abuse of any kind would be absolutely unthinkable.



Of course we are not concerned here with the Catholic priests with whom you are acquainted. What is at the stake is the hypocrisy of the Catholic church and of some of its clergy. As you can easily see, these priests are people who should have been put right by their brothers in the episcopate. And supposing they were to fall into their old ways again, they should have been excluded from the church. In the name of an incorrect idea of tolerance, however, which one must actually characterize as abdication of responsibility - together with the hushing up and sweeping under the carpet that went with it - this did not happen, and so these are the consequences.

Now in commenting on my remarks about what we must accept in our neighbor and what not, you write:

“I find this last statement quite extraordinary. Does it mean that if I am a teetotaller, it gives me a right to condemn alcoholics? Do I make my own virtue the measure of other people’s vices? This is completely pharisaical and in contradiction of everything Our Lord taught us. In particular, the Pharisee and the publican in the temple come to mind.”


If we now substitute child abuse by Catholic priests for alcohol abuse, I suppose that you personally would then have likewise given your approval to this sexual misconduct on the part of your brothers? Seeing that a reproof - to say nothing of punishment - would after all be, based on your own judgment, “completely pharisaical and in contradiction of everything Our Lord taught us”. In conjunction with your assertion “These accounts certainly make me very sad”, this is now completely hypocritical, and shows the double standards of your argument.

For your information, here is the most recent report on this business:

(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Catholic church pays record damages to victims of sexual abuse. / Die Presse [“The Press”] 00, 02-02-2006)

Louisville (ag) 361 plaintiffs, and damage payments to the amount of 70.1 million euros: one of the most costly abuse trials of the Roman Catholic church in the USA has just come to an end. In a collective plea, 361 persons accused priests of the Covington diocese in the US state of Kentucky of having subjected them to sexual abuse. Some cases go back more than 50 years.

The victims will now receive, depending on the extent of the abuse they were subjected to, between 5000 and 450,000 US dollars in damages.

But the highest damages to date were paid by the Orange diocese in California, when in 2004 ninety victims received a total of 100 million US dollars.

According to an internal church investigation, in the last 50 years there have been 4000 Roman Catholic priests in the USA found guilty of sexual harassment of a total of 10,000 children, generally boys.


http://www.diepresse.com/)



Do you not know that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God?

1Cor 6,9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 6,10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 1Cor 6, 9-10;


It would have shown well in the Catholic church if it had donated the sums it was here ordered by the court to pay out, coming to almost 200 million US dollars, to the victims of the tsunami catastrophe for instance. But when it is a matter of charity, admonitions to the world to give financial support to the needy is all that we find emanating from the Vatican. I personally have never heard anything about the Vatican itself making any charitable donations.



John Waterfield: With reference to Catholicism in the Third World, you write as follows:

“But when we analyze the situation more closely, we find that there is yet another party that benefits from this distorted interpretation. For centuries the Roman Catholic church has been missionizing many of these peoples, and with some of them it has been successful in converting the greater part of the population to the Catholic faith - even if the Catholic Spanish and Portuguese practically exterminated half a million American Indians in the name of the Catholic church in Southern and Central America in the sixteenth century. Nonetheless Brazil, for instance, is 93% Catholic today, although these so-called ‘Christians’ do not have any kind of problem, after Mass on a Sunday morning, about praying to the spirits of the earth and the forest - who have now been promoted to Catholic saints - in the afternoon, and sacrificing to them in hope of a good harvest. In Africa we find comparable practices involving shamanism and voodoo cults. This is Catholicism as it really exists in these countries.”

I must admit that I do not have first hand information here - but are you any better informed? And would you write off the faith of so many who call themselves Christians, because you find it to be impure - because it does not measure up to your standards of purity? In the first centuries of the Christian era, would there not have been a lot of pagan practices still extant, in parallel to Christian allegiance? Do you not think that Paul would have looked on these with a tolerant eye - above all because he saw the desire of the heart for God, he valued that seeking heart rather than condemning it?



I derive my information from the international press, and from the reports of aid organizations in South America and elsewhere. We are not concerned here with the “purity” or “impurity” of the faith of these people - and we certainly are not concerned with my personal judgment of the state they are in. What is at issue is the one correct biblically founded Christian faith, as it was proclaimed to us by the Lord and the apostles, and the point is that these Catholics, with their prayers to spirits, demons and idols, may be able to demonstrate their Catholic faith but certainly do not have a Christian faith founded on the Bible.

These people, then, do not have an “impure” faith, as you suppose - rather, they are quite simply unconverted: they may be Catholics, but they are not Christians! But this is a circumstance that the Catholic missionaries, in their prudence, never explained to them. They wanted to acquire new members, not Christian believers. And so the Catholic church can boast today of having more than a billion members worldwide.

As for your somewhat surprising view that Paul would have turned a blind eye in the first Christian congregations because he valued the “desire of the heart for God” (one of your favorite phrases!) in these people more than he felt the need to condemn them, it can be refuted from Scripture in Paul’s own words.

We preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain idols to a living God.

Apg 14,14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 14.15 and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain idols to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. Apg 14,14-15;


With your repeated reference to the “desire of the heart for God” you are patently trying to disguise the fact that these people, while they may perhaps be in search of a God, have never decided for the God of Christianity. They have opted for spirits, demons and idols, to which they pray and offer sacrifice. And this is then interpreted as their “desire of the heart for God”, on the basis of which you are prepared to declare them to be believing and saved (sic) Christians free of charge.



John Waterfield: The Bible translator you quote argues (in my view quite correctly) that ‘neighbourhood’ is a reciprocal term. So Jesus is telling us, in the story of the Good Samaritan, that we should be a neighbour to those who are less fortunate than ourselves - not, as you suppose, that we should love those who have been neighbourly to us, in other words show gratitude to our benefactors.



I see here that you still have not understood this passage correctly - this in view of the fact that in the above comments you contradict yourself in the space of a single sentence. On the one hand you write that the Lord tells us that we should be a neighbor to the poor - which is completely correct. This is indeed the very point of view that I want to emphasize. We - the helpers - should be a neighbor to the poor and help them. So you interpret this passage in conformity with Scripture, just as I do - but in exactly the opposite way from the general opinion and the opinion of the biblical translator in the first part of this discourse, namely that the poor are our neighbors. I hope that this umpteenth explanation of the implications of the passage makes the matter finally clear (perhaps you should consult your English Bible).

So if, in the light of the Lord’s commandment, the helpers are the neighbors, then the poor people in question must, based on the Lord’s commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself”, love the people who have helped them as themselves in gratitude for their help. Even if this should be incomprehensible to you in German, you can check it in the English Bible (or for that matter in the Greek), where the matter is equally plain.

So you write on the one hand that the Lord says that we should be a neighbor to the poor and help them (for which they should love us as themselves), and then you criticize me because I say that when we are poor and in need of help and when help is given to us, we should love our helpers as ourselves. It is exactly the same situation, only in one case we are the helpers and in the other the ones who need help.

I am very understanding of the fact that some people do not grasp the significance of these statements immediately. But this only shows that they have never read this parable of Our Lord’s with full awareness - or else they have purely and simply failed to understand it. And in such a situation one would do well to sit down and look more closely at the passage in the Bible.



John Waterfield: You write in answer:

“In his final comment, the translator then suggests that the victim of the assault in this parable should thank and show his love to the priest and the Levite who have passed him by without sparing him a thought, when he lay helpless on the road. This finally shows a complete want of biblical understanding, and the entirely unrealistic nature of such a point of view is equally plain. Anyone who calls this ‘New Testament ethics’ must be fundamentally lacking in any understanding either of ethics or of the New Testament.”

There is some distortion involved here, as the Bible translator does not actually suggest in so many words that the victim should pray for and love those people who have failed to help him. He does however point out - quite correctly - that Jesus said that if we love those who love us, nothing special is involved (‘even the publicans and Pharisees do as much’). So yes, I do think the Christian position is that the victim would be obliged to recognize the priest and the Levite as fellow human beings, and therefore deserving of his prayers. Is this unrealistic? Of course. Christianity is completely unrealistic. Hence Tertullian’s comment ‘Credo quia absurdum est’, and Gandhi’s response when asked what he thought of Christianity: “It would be a good idea”.



Yes, there really is a case of distortion here. Starting from my simple formulation “Show your love to the person who has helped you”, this translator takes my meaning to be “Do good to the Samaritan, but not to the priest and not to the Levite.” But it is not a matter of “doing” here! It is a matter of love. And what is meant is not the general human love of every day: in view of this commandment by God, what is at issue is that love with which we love ourselves. This emphasis gets completely washed out and watered down. Everything that I am prepared to give myself I must also be prepared to give to this neighbor who has helped me. Can you imagine what that means? It means, for example, that in the light of the commandment I must make all my worldly goods available to this person if required. If the common view were correct - according to which, as some see it, we were to be obliged to love the poor of the whole world in this way - then we in the West would long since ourselves have come to be in need of charity.

And then you say that “the Christian position is that the victim would be obliged to recognize the priest and the Levite as fellow human beings, and therefore deserving of his prayers”. What the victim of the robbers does or does not do is not in any way a matter for discussion, either in the parable or here. It is simply and solely a question who the neighbor of the victim is. As for the priest and the Levite being “fellow human beings” of the victim - why should they not be? This is just a device on the part of this Bible translator, which serves to conceal the fact that the priest and the Levite are actually not the man’s “neighbors” in the sense defined by the parable - otherwise the incorrectness of his interpretation might become all too plain.



John Waterfield: You further write:

“As anyone who knows the biblical background of the story is aware, the Romans were not the real enemies of Our Lord. The real enemies were the Jewish lawyers who had handed him over to the Romans and delivered him to death on the cross. And when it comes to these, his true enemies, to whom he has proclaimed the gospel and proved his identity as the Son of God through his miracles, and who in spite of this (or for this very reason) have persecuted and taken him captive and condemned him, and who therefore were thoroughly aware of what they were doing - when it comes to them, the Lord shows himself considerably less gracious, as we can see from the following scriptural passages.”

Mt 3,7 You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Mt 12,24 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?

Mt 23,32 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

Jn 8,44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.


And again here, I am afraid that I think your evocation of the Old Testament God of wrath, through the passages you cite, is altogether unChristian. God ‘desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live’. Surely you would not want to be be less merciful? I cannot find any source of satisfaction in the condemnation of my non-believing or non-Christian brothers and sisters - it is a prospect that affords me very great pain, given the human potential for good expressed in their lives. But it seems you view the matter differently.



Now when you say “your evocation of the Old Testament God of wrath, through the passages you cite, is altogether unChristian”, then you would have to find the whole of the New Testament “unChristian”, because you find in it those very indications that prove that God’s love is not blind, as you like to think.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Rom 1,18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 1,19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 1,20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 1,21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Rom 1,18-21;

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.

Rom 1,22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 1,23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 1,24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 1,25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Rom 1,22-25;

The Lord came to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly.

Jud 1,14 It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 1,15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." 1,16 These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. 1,17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 1,14-17;



After all, it is not as if the Old Testament had suddenly been superseded. In the passage you quoted earlier from the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord also utters these words:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets.

Mt 5,17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 5,18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Mt 5,17-18;

As we can see from these scriptural passages, it is not blind love but the absolute justice of God that determines all his actions. So the love of the Almighty only goes as far as it can be reconciled with his commandments and his justice, otherwise God’s many punishments of his beloved people of Israel would be impossible to comprehend. Similarly with the judgments on humanity in the Last Days of which we are told in Revelation - if God’s love were blind, with no limits set by justice, these would be inconceivable. But people today like to gloss over this, speaking disparagingly of the “God of wrath of the Old Testament” and condemning God’s justice as a traditionalist fundamentalist idea that leaves the love of God completely out of account.

And yet the justice of God has never changed. God judges each human individual in accordance with his works. So it was in the Old Testament, and so it is in the New Testament as well. What has changed is the righteousness of human beings. Whereas in the pre-Christian epoch human beings were judged by God in the light of the righteousness of their actions, and would either have to offer sacrifice for their sins or themselves answer for it at the Last Judgment, since the vicarious death of Our Lord Jesus Christ for our sins they are now judged on the basis of whether they have faith in Jesus Christ and whether they have accepted the redeeming sacrifice of the Son of God for their sins or not. This acceptance of the faith is the action, the work which we are charged by God as righteousness. At the Judgment we have to show works which are better than all works of all righteous together - the sacrifice of the Son of God.

From this time on in world history, the acceptance of faith in Jesus Christ is judged by God as the highest possible work of righteousness open to human beings. Through this act of deciding for faith we have that righteousness which Jews and Catholics today still vainly think to “acquire” - the first through righteous conduct (an illusion), the latter through willfully self-imposed suffering and self-inflicted pain (a perversion). They have not understood that the price here is way beyond their means, which is why God wishes to give them a free gift out of grace, in the sacrificial death of his Son.

The view expressed in one of the books of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, that Jesus Christ did not suffer on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, but rather - as a completely righteous person suffering pain undeservedly - meant to give us a model to follow, is explained by a Catholic priest and theologian in Discourse 30.

(See also Discourse 30: “Why had Jesus to die on the cross?”)


And it is precisely this that is the love of God towards humanity - that in his mercy he let his only Son die on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of all men.

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

1Jn 4,9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 1Jn 4, 9;

Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

Jud 1,20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 1,21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. Jude 1,20-21;

The love of God has been poured out within our hearts for at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Rom 5,5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 5,6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Rom 5, 5- 6;

He who believes in Me will live even if he dies.

Jn 11,25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 11,26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" Jn 11,25-26;


In Our Lord’s saying above, “he who believes in me”, we do however recognize the limits to which the love of God is subject: it is not an unconditional and unlimited love, there are clear conditions and strict consequences involved. He who believes will live, he who does not believe will die in his sins and will go to everlasting damnation. We find this expressed once again in the following passage (Jn 8,24):

For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

Jn 8,24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." Jn 8,24;

He who rejects Me, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.

Jn 12,44 And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 12,45 "He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. 12,46 "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 12,47 "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 12,48 "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. Jn 12,44-48;


Now you write in your comments above:

“I cannot find any source of satisfaction in the condemnation of my non-believing or non-Christian brothers and sisters - it is a prospect that affords me very great pain, given the human potential for good expressed in their lives. But it seems you view the matter differently.”

If you are concerned here about your unbelieving and non-Christian brethren, while in your earlier remarks you dismiss the Lord’s commandment to proclaim to these same unbelievers and non-Christians the good news of salvation through grace with the words “I am afraid I completely disagree with this”, then actually you are the one who is condemning these people. By refusing to proclaim the gospel to them as the one salvation from their godless condition, it is you who are preventing these people from being saved and so condemning them to eternal damnation.

On the one hand you say that the biblical passages I quote above, from Mt 3,7, 12,24, 23,32 and Jn 8,44, in which the Lord condemns the Pharisees, are “unChristian” - they are after all literal statements made by the Lord! - while on the other hand you claim that even Far Eastern religions can lead to a person’s being saved. I ask you, what is more unChristian? Of course God does not wish for the death of sinners, but rather that they should be converted from their godless ways and come to eternal life. But if they are to be open to conversion, they must first have had the gospel of the Son of God preached to them. And that he was himself this Son of God, the Lord did actually make known to the religious leaders in the Israel of his own time. But when they refused to accept this message and accused him of being a liar and blasphemer, he described them as sons of the devil and so displayed their true identity.

And so it is with all those who have heard the gospel, but have not accepted its message: they will not escape from the wrath to come. And if you want to declare such people to be believing Christians because they supposedly have a “desire of the heart for God”, this is not just unChristian, it is purely and simply the dissemination of false doctrine.

Finally I would just like to take issue with your rather rhetorical question as to whether Christianity is unrealistic. You answer the question yourself immediately, saying:

“Of course. Christianity is completely unrealistic. Hence Tertullian’s comment ‘Credo quia absurdum est’, and Gandhi’s response when asked what he thought of Christianity: ‘It would be a good idea’”.


Yes, well, this now is the not so surprising result, when you go to an ancient Roman church author, who did not even have the New Testament available to him, and an Indian to get an explanation of the gospel.


When you now refer to me in your above comments, in writing “But it seems you view the matter differently”, you have hit the nail on the head. Nonetheless - or even for that very reason - I thank you for having taken the trouble to read the first part of this Discourse and for contributing your comments. Contributions like yours repeatedly give me the opportunity of comparing them with the statements to be found in Scripture, and so making it possible for those readers who are not so familiar with the material to form a judgment. Even if this basically always comes down to the same theme - Jesus Christ. But you, with your literary background, will no doubt be acquainted with Goethe’s dictum:

We must keep on repeating the truth,
because error too goes on being preached the whole time all around us.






Must Christians love their enemies?         Part 1, Discourse 75